Mia Dona, Donatella Arpaia and Michael Psilakis’s new restaurant is open and busy, though still BYOB. We previewed the food in our video, but the menu turns out to be larger and significantly cheaper than expected. The gnudi with truffle-butter sauce, mushrooms, and crispy speck that was so popular at the old Dona is back, one of only two survivors from the old menu. Mia Dona skews Italian more than the old Dona did, but there are a number of Greco-Psilakisian numbers on it, as well, especially a grilled octopus with olives, Feta, and anchovy vinaigrette. The bar menu, meanwhile, is completely separate and includes a burger (as seen on our video), a pork belly BLT, and crispy baccalà that is the only other Dona holdover. Check out the dinner menu, part of our ever-expanding database, for yourself.
Mia Dona Dinner MenuRelated:Video: Inside Mia Dona’s Kitchen
When Dona shuttered unexpectedly last year, the impact was cushioned by the knowledge that Michael Psilakis has two other restaurants: the informal Kefi and the ambitious Anthos. Well, both places are big successes, but some of us still miss Dona — its Italian inflections, its suppleness, the width of its menu, and of course that world-class gnudi. We checked in with Psilakis the other night, and he tells us that he and his boyish chef de cuisine, Jason Hall, are testing recipes like crazy: “We’re constantly cooking, doing different things than we’ve been doing at Anthos. I really love filled pastas, so there’s going to be some of those. And the gnudi will definitely be back.”
Dona, long departed and much missed, is on its way back. But while the last incarnation was a fairly refined, plutocratic concern, this one will be more casual. With a working title of Dona Café and a short list of possible locations (we’re hearing East 58th Street tops it), Donatella Arpaia and Michael Psilakis should soon be in a position to complete what sounded, less than a year ago, like an impossibility: to create Kefi, Anthos, and a new Dona, all one right after the other. Although owner Arpaia cautions that “it’s all just in the planning stage,” we’ve heard things are pretty far along. For anyone who ever got hooked on the Greek-Italian fusion that was Dona’s special achievement, that’s good news.
The nominations for the James Beard Foundation Awards, the Oscars of the restaurant industry, will be announced Monday morning. We’ll report on that as it happens, but for now, here are picks for the main categories from Adam Platt, Rob Patronite and Robin Raisfeld, and Josh Ozersky. Our choices are admittedly New York–centric (the awards go to restaurants across the country), but the ceremony is held here, and the city always looms large in the proceedings.
Michael Psilakis’s ambitious new restaurant, Anthos, opens Monday in the old Acqua Pazza space. It’s been a busy, up-and-down year for the chef: His critically praised Dona closed, unexpectedly, one week into 2007. Just a couple of weeks later, he converted his high Greek eatery Onera into the more casual Kefi, which went on, in this week’s issue, to win four stars from the Underground Gourmet. The wheel in the sky keeps on turning, as they say. Looks like it’s lifting Psilakis back up. We went inside Anthos and got all the evidence.
7Square, a “modern chophouse” we’re fond of, has suddenly and unexpectedly gone under. The restaurant will close after lunch today, we’re told by a source from within the restaurant, owing more to financial complications than the restaurant’s ability to lure customers. The close might be billed as temporary, but our source insists the doors will be shut for good. If only we hadn’t made plans to scarf lunch at our desk.
Earlier:A Modern Chophouse's Roman Excess [Grub Street]
Adam Platt's review [NYM]
Good news for Jeffrey Chodorow: A restaurant owner in Ireland has successfully sued a critic's publication for giving him a bad review. [BBC]
A Texas pizzeria riled anti-immigration types with a pesos-for-pizza stunt. This subsequent essay is part marketing communications, part sociology. [NYT]
Fun interview with Drew Nieporent. Question: Is his favorite low-end restaurant really the random Benito’s II in Little Italy? [NYT]
In the wake of Dona’s demise, Michael Psilakis is a man with a major challenge. He has two restaurants that currently only exist on a theoretical plane, and one actual restaurant, the Upper West Side’s Onera, that is underperforming. So as part of a grand retrenching and expansion effort, Psilakis has reconceived Onera as Kefi, a family-style neighborhood eatery. It’s a good idea. The neighborhood’s residents weren’t primed for Psilakis’s challenging food (his most memorable effort there was a multicourse offal tasting menu); nor, to be fair, was the room worthy. Psilakis, though, claims that Kefi’s more casual cooking has other benefits as well.
The news that Dona is closing Saturday has us in a dismal mood. Who knows how long it will be until chef Michael Psilakis is back behind his stove? In the meantime — or if you can’t score a reservation at Dona in the next couple of days — we suggest you sample the following dishes at these five remaining temples of Aegean cookery.
Whom can we hold responsible for the music that gets played in restaurants? [NYT]
Tasca, Po, and Cambodian Cuisine opening; Sumile metamorphosing into Sumile Sushi. [NYT]
Starbucks hops on the trans-fat banned-wagon. [Food Business Review]
The story behind Dona’s closing (with a plea to understand the developer responsible for it). [NYP]
Related: Dona Closing Saturday!
Caviar once again flowing from the Caspian Sea to the U.S. [NYT]
Dona should be riding high this week — Adam Platt just named the Greek-Italian fusion eatery one of the best new restaurants of 2006, and chef Michael Psilakis also topped our critic’s list of the best up-and-coming chefs. But if we’ve inspired you to visit the place, you’d better act fast: Owner Donatella Arpaia has given up her lease (under duress — a developer is installing a hotel in the building), and Saturday will be the last night the restaurant is open for dinner. She tells us that she’s searching for a new location in the neighborhood but has no idea when it might reopen. In the meantime, the haute Greek restaurant she has been planning with Psilakis (and which we announced in November) will be installed in the space currently occupied by Acqua Pazza. Small comfort, that.
Here we thought that Michael Psilakis was on top of the world, with a critically acclaimed restaurant on the Upper West Side in Onera, an even more critically acclaimed restaurant with Donatella Arpaia on the East Side in Dona, and a jump on A-list celebrity-chef status. (Psilakis is going to Yale to speak on Greek food Wednesday.) But his biggest plan, apparently, is still in the works.
Michelin dropped its ratings bomb today, and it's safe to say that the New York restaurant world is, as usual, reeling. Though not as consequential as a Zagat snub, business-wise, the Michelin ratings are closer to the hearts of top chefs. (French chef Bernard Loiseau was widely believed to have killed himself over a Michelin downgrade.) The book is supposed to be in stores tomorrow (though our local Barnes & Noble says it's not even at the distributor yet). We do, however, know of some surprises. Messrs. Boulud, Bouley, and Takahama are no doubt having lousy afternoons.
There's no other restaurateur quite like Donatella Arpaia of Dona and davidburke & donatella: She was the first to zip around town on a Vespa ("Everyone else copied me") and, leaving aside her discerning palate, we're quite certain she's the only one food writers have characterized as "comely." Between Friday, September 29, and Wednesday, October 4, she indulged in a singular combination of sea urchin, fat-free yogurt, and black-and-white cookies.
When we heard that Periyali, the much-admired Flatiron Greek restaurant, was closing for a six-week renovation, we wondered if the food would be changing too. After all, the restaurant may have been the final word in high Greek cooking back in the Clinton era, but a wave of superb Greek restaurants including Thalassa, Estiatorio Milos, Molyvos, Onera, and Dona have opened in the intervening years. Would Periyali risk tarnishing their superb menu to adjust? The place reopened this week with new mirrors, a marble bar, and a big mural of Greece, all apparently in hopes of acquiring a younger, hipper crowd. But happily, Periyali is still serving the same very fine, if familiar, moussaka, grilled salmon, grilled lamb chops, and other classics foods which, as Rob and Robin point out, "can still surprise and beguile with their cultivated polish," even if the restaurant lacks the up-to-the-minute sex appeal of some of the newer places. We honor Jim Botsacos's head-on prawns with hot pepper at Molyvos and Michael Psilakis's sheep's-milk dumplings with spicy lamb sausage and dandelion greens at Onera. But for a simple rabbit stew, we'll first visit Periyali — no matter what the bar is made of.